LONDON, 21 Dec (APM) - Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris has said the government will pay for Merck & Co’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for cervical cancer, despite being rejected by the country's health technology assessor, The Times reported on Thursday.
Michael Barry, head of the health technology assessment (HTA) body) National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), said he hoped the decision would be “seen as a one off” and that the government would stick to the system in future.
His comments came in an interview with Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio, which was picked up by The Times.
“Normally drugs would be assessed by the NCPE prior to reimbursement — in other words sticking with the system that we have got — and the reason is that these drugs are incredibly expensive,” he said.
“Pembrolizumab for the three indications we are paying for costs €156 million at asking price over five years.”
Advanz has hiked UK liothyronine prices more than 5,000%
NHS prescriptions for thyroid drug liothyronine have fallen by about 40% in the UK after Advanz Pharma (formerly Concordia International) put the price of a tablet up from 16p to £9.22 — a rise of 5,663%, the Times reported on Wednesday.
The company has only just changed its name earlier this month after being mired in price hike scandals (APMHE 60867
The Times said falling NHS prescription rates for liothyronine means thousands of patients have been denied the drug, which is used to treat people with an underactive thyroid who have not responded to the primary treatment, because healthcare commissioners will not pay for it.
There are now two other companies that market the drug but the price has fallen only slightly and costs the NHS £8.55 a tablet.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is now investigating the pricing of the drug. Last year it accused Concordia of breaching competition law by charging excessive prices (APMHE 55699
). The CMA is yet to give a final ruling.
Brexit could lead to panic drug stockpiling
The Times on Thursday said there are fears Brexit could lead to patients panic stockpiling their drugs if faith is lost in the government’s planning, clearing the shelves of pharmacies.
The government insists that the NHS does not need to stockpile medicines, said the paper. The government has, however, called on the pharma industry to stockpile six months' worth of medicines (APMHE 59057
Health chiefs say they are still unclear about what needs to happen.
The Times added that getting drugs across the Channel is the focus in the short-term, but the bigger fear in industry and the NHS is potential long-term disruption and uncertainty.
An analysis by the UK's drug regulator, the MHRA, found that the 20 most commonly used medicines in the NHS come from 23 other EU states as well as 27 other countries.
Drug prices on rise due to Brexit
Pharmacies have warned that drugs prices in the UK are rising amid pharma industry attempts to build up a stockpile ahead of the country’s departure from the EU, The Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.
The story is based on a letter from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the House of Commons' health committee.
It says there has been a surge in the number of drugs which were now being reimbursed at special rates, above the standard national tariff, amid growing shortages (APMHE 61104
Brexit stockpiling linked to drug shortages in Ireland
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said medicine shortages are “increasingly prominent” in Ireland and that it had coincided with the UK Department of Health and Social Care’s advice for the pharma industry to stockpile drugs ahead of Brexit, The Times said on Friday.
Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the IPU, said: “We can’t draw an absolute link between Brexit preparations and the medicine shortages but we do know that medicines in Ireland are in short supply and that it is happening at the same time the UK was told to start stockpiling.”
Sanofi considering Essex port instead of Dover to supply drugs to UK
Sanofi is investigating plans to bring medicines from Europe into the UK through the Essex port of Harwich instead of Dover over fears of delays due to Brexit, said The Sunday Times.
Hugo Fry, Sanofi’s UK head, said the company is as “prepared as it could be” for a no-deal Brexit.
It has previously announced it would increase its stocks in Britain from 10 to 14 weeks.
PWC advices pharma clients to be ready for no-deal Brexit
PWC, the professional services firm, has advised its clients to be ready for all potential Brexit outcomes, including the prospect of the UK leaving without a deal, said The Times on Monday.
Pharmaceuticals and medical devices companies were specifically encouraged to ensure that critical medical supplies could be secured.
Feargal O’Rourke, the PWC Ireland managing partner, told the paper: “The end of March 2019 is approaching fast and there is a risk that the worst-case scenario crystallises, leaving the UK trading under World Trade Organisation rules.
"While the political uncertainty is likely to continue, business leaders need to focus on running their businesses in an ongoing disruptive environment. Having contingency plans while remaining flexible and agile are key at this time."
Perrigo hit by €1.64 billion tax claim in Ireland
Ireland’s Perrigo has been hit by a tax claim from the Irish government for €1.64 billion over a deal it made five years ago, the Financial Times said on Thursday.
Perrigo said it received an amended tax assessment from Irish tax authority the Revenue Commissioners on 29 November in relation to a 2013 transition by Elan, an Irish company it acquired that year.
“Perrigo strongly disagrees with this assessment and believes that the [notice of amended tax assessment] is without merit and incorrect as a matter of law,” it said in a filing to the SEC.
Novartis looking for alternative pricing models for curative therapies
Novartis is looking at alternative pricing models for curative treatments such as its CAR-T therapy Kymriah, the FT said at the weekend.
The paper said these options include a “reinsurance model” in which a third party underwrites the cost in these cases, the company’s chief executive Vas Narasimhan told the paper.
This model could benefit reinsurers such as Swiss Re and Munich Re by providing an alternative revenue sources, said the paper.
It added that discussions between pharma firms and reinsurers in this area are at the concept stage but the “reinsurance option” could work countries with state funded healthcare and for those with private health insurance.
GSK and Pfizer to combine consumer health businesses
GlaxoSmithKline’s decision to spin off its consumer healthcare business in a £10 billion joint venture with U.S. rival Pfizer was widely picked up on Wednesday.
The FT, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian all covered the announcement, which will create a business with combined sales of £9.8 billion (APMHE 61132
The new business will own GSK’s Sensodyne, Voltaren and Panadol brands as well as Pfizer’s Advil, Centrum and Caltrate.
Indivior expects to meet sales guidance if it staves off Suboxone generics
Indivior expects to meet full-year sales guidance provided Dr Reddy’s does not launch a generic version of its biggest selling product Suboxone Film to treat opioid addiction, the FT said on Wednesday.
Shares rose 13% on the news, said the paper (APMHE 61129